SAMUEL HILL PIONEER IN CALDWELL COUNTY IN 1833
Narrators: Mrs. Mamie Eldredge, Fielding Hill, George Streeter and Others
In building up the life and traditions of this well known character in the pioneer life of Caldwell County, it has been necessary to talk with many people, both his descendents and outsiders, to get the meager information given. Everyone of the older outsiders quoted have seen him and knew his peculiarities well. The younger people quoted heard about him in their childhood.
Samuel Hill came from Tennessee into Caldwell County as early as 1833 for then he entered a quarter section of land in present Kingston township from the government. He entered other tracts of land from time to time and became very land rich. In 1859, he owned 40 acres southeast of the new town of Hamilton, which he and his son, Greenberry, had entered. This was divided into town lots and sold as Hillsborough, being later included in Hamilton as Hill's addition. The present Eldredge home (old Dr. Tuttle property) is in Hill's addition. Much trouble came from these deeds; for Greenberry Hill someway entered the land in his own name and Sam Hill sold the lots in his own name, so Greenberry's name had to be given the property owners.
While Sam Hill was well off, at least in land, reports say that his way of living was frugal. F.W. Hill recalls him when he lived between Hamilton and Kingston and says he lived in a hovel of two rooms. They had so many children that he drove pegs into the log-walls and put boards on the pegs to sleep his little children. His few comforts seemed to satisfy him. At that time he was living with his second wife, who claimed to be part indian. They parted and they divided the farm straight up and down. It is said by George Streeter that she took the girls and he the boys. That farm was the present Bob Minger farm (part of the old Gibson farm). This second wife used to tell the informant about eating raw bear meat which swelled up inside her after being eaten. His children as this informant recalls were as follows; John (married a Ross and lived near Polo), Lucy, Greenberry (child of first marriage), Dave, Bill, Harriett, Gim (Probably Gilbert), and Peter. Some served in the Civil War.
Another informant says that he always understood that Sam Hill could not read or write. He married a third wife, a very young girl and he, by this time was in the late sixties. By this time, he was living in Gomer township on the present Foley farm. One old lady now past ninety says she saw his children there being rocked in the top of a trunk as a cradle. That house, too, was more or less of a shack.
About 1870, he had a very serious sickness, and Dr. King and Dr. Tuttle (father of Mrs. Eldredge who recalls him as grey, old, and decrepit with rheumatism). All his sons and daughters by now had families of their own and were greatly upset when he married the third wife, for his mind seemed to be somewhat affected. In connection with his illness, Mrs. Eldredge tells a story of the first lemons in Hamilton. The doctors had ordered them from Kansas City for Mr. Hill, and kept them uptown in an office, taking them out to Sam Hill as needed. But it got around that there were some lemons in town and about half of them were stolen; for lots of people did not know what a lemon tasted like. Surely Hamilton in 1870 was thirty miles from a lemon! (A saying used in those days.)
One of Sam Hill's peculiarities according to F.W. Hill was wearing an old tall silk hat, no matter what his other clothes were. He was a vigorous walker and people could recognize him down the road at a distance by his hat.
His name used to be the cause of many jokes for in this community the words "Sam Hill" were used as a common saying to express something extreme without reference to him. Therefore, when Mrs. Lottie Anderson (as a girl) was told that old Sam Hill lay buried on the other side of the hedge, she thought it was only a joke referring to the old saying. A man recently told of his father, a contemporary of Sam Hill, meeting him as a stranger. The first told his name and asked the second his name. The second said "I'm Sam Hill", whereupon the first, taken back by the answer said, "Well, I'm sure glad to meet you for I have always heard of you." Hill said "How?" and the other man said, "People are always
saying that it is as hot as Sam Hill or as cold as Sam Hill and, at least, I know who Sam Hill is."
At Sam Hills death, he asked to be buried under a certain tree by the hedge on his place. Even today, people speak of attending that burial probably in 1870. Another says that in her girlhood, in going to Locust Grove school, the grave was pointed out to her, and people told her about the peculiar old man. James Murrell moved into the neighborhood in the 70's and used to have the mound pointed out to him.
Mr. Taylor Allee recalls that Sam Hill was a good hearted man but a hard drinker, as pioneers often were; and that when half-full, he was ready to fight all comers but few people took him up.
William Hemry tells another story showing the families queer ways. He is reported to have buried money. He had a son also who is said to have done the same. At any rate, one day when William Hemry was working at the Blacksten place, a daughter of the son came out and dug around a spot in the orchard in the Greenberry Hill farm, saying that she was hunting two pots of gold which her father had buried there for her and a sister. Mr. Hemry saw the torn-up-places where she had dug but everyone said that she found nothing. No marker has ever been put up at the grave of the old pioneer Sam Hill, as far as the interviewer has been able to ascertain.
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